The News Service of Florida is reporting that the Florida Supreme Court has officially given the nod to a congressional map that, among other things, puts most of Pinellas County in one district.
The decision comes after months — nah, years — of controversy over the manner in which the state's congressional districts ought to be drawn, as well as millions in taxpayer dollars spent to redraw the maps and fight a lawsuit or two over said maps.
In all, 22 of the state's 27 congressional districts saw some change, including Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties.
Pinellas' 13th District will become more Democratic for at least the next three elections, and Hillsborough's 14th will have more Republicans, though probably not enough to unseat Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor.
Even though it's taken a long while to make the congressional maps official, the writing has been on the wall for some time, and sparked some dramatic changes in the local political landscape over the summer.
U.S. Rep. David Jolly (R—Indian Rocks Beach), for example, announced he'd be vacating his Congressional District 13 seat to run for U.S. Senate. Former Governor Charlie Crist subsequently jumped into the race to fill Jolly's seat, joining Democrat Eric Lynn in a Democratic primary.
Following the Supreme Court's decision Wednesday, Crist issued a statement through his people commending the decision:
"There's no place like home, especially a home with fair congressional districts like we now have in Pinellas County. The people's voice will finally be whole, loud, and clear when we fight for fair wages, new jobs, equality, education, and protecting our shorelines."
This is the latest in a redistricting saga that began in the wake of a 2010 voter-approved amendment to the state constitution that called for districts to be drawn in a way that is fair, i.e. no drawing them in the shape of a sci-fi alien bug so your buddies can get elected.
In 2012, when state lawmakers redrew the state's congressional, State Senate and State House districts, there were alien bugs galore, and probably even a swamp monster.
So a coalition of voting rights groups, including the League of Women Voters, sued.
On the congressional and State Senate districts, they won (the Senate admitting its guilt on the latter before the court could hand down a decision, probably a strategy to avoid getting told specifics on how the Senate districts should be redrawn), and lawmakers had to go back and redraw them again — or try to, anyway.
They failed; cronyism this, protecting-one's-own-political-future-at-the-expense-of-democracy that.
The court still has to issue a decision on the State Senate maps, and it's unclear when that will happen.